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Hum Gene Ther. 2009 Jan;20(1):11-20. doi: 10.1089/hum.2008.055.

Cytotoxic T lymphocyte responses to transgene product, not adeno-associated viral capsid protein, limit transgene expression in mice.

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  • 1Department of Immunotherapy Research, Genzyme, Framingham, MA 01701, USA.


The use of adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors for gene replacement therapy is currently being explored in several clinical indications. However, reports have suggested that input capsid proteins from AAV-2 vector particles may result in the stimulation of cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) responses that can result in a loss of transduced cells. To explore the impact of anti-AAV CTLs on AAV-mediated transgene expression, both immunocompetent C57BL=6 mice and B cell-deficient muMT mice were immunized against the AAV2 capsid protein (Cap) and were injected intravenously with an AAV-2 vector encoding alpha-galactosidase (alpha-Gal). C57BL=6 mice, which developed both CTL and neutralizing antibody responses against Cap, failed to show any detectable alpha-Gal expression. In contrast, serum alpha-Gal levels comparable to those of naive mice were observed in muMT mice despite the presence of robust CTL activity against Cap, indicating that preexisting Cap-specific CTLs did not have any effect on the magnitude and duration of transgene expression. The same strategy was used to assess the impact of CTLs against the alpha-Gal transgene product on AAV-mediated gene delivery and persistence of transgene expression. Preimmunization of muMT mice with an Ad=alpha-Gal vector induced a robust CTL response to alpha-Gal. When these mice were injected with AAV2=alpha-Gal vector, initial levels of alpha-Gal expression were reduced by more than 1 log and became undetectable by 2 weeks postinjection. Overall, our results indicate that CTLs against the transgene product as opposed to AAV capsid protein are more likely to interfere with AAV transgene expression.

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